The unholy alliance of religious Ethiopia with anti-religious Eritrea

Esaias Afwerki was trained to be an athetist in Communist China under Chairman Mao

The paradoxical alliance of Abiy Ahmed and his religious supporters with the anti-religion regime of Eritrea’s Esaias Afwerki. Look at any survey ranking the world’s countries in religious observance and its importance in daily life and you will usually find Ethiopia near the top. Yet Abiy Ahmed has put together an unholy alliance with avowed anti-religious Eritrea to facilitate genocide as a means to gain power against the very vows of brotherhood and humanity which make up the core of the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religions of Ethiopia.

Abiy Ahmed has placed the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on house arrest because he spoke out against genocide. He has conspired with Eritrea in performing acts of murder and desecration against Christian, Muslim, and Jews (Qemont) to their followers and sanctuaries.  

Although Esaias was apparently raised as a Christian as far as anyone can tell he is now atheist. As a young man in the 1960s he was trained in Marxism under Chinese Chairman Mao who advocated a religious free world. In the early 1970s he complained that the early Eritrea independence movement, the Eritrean Liberation Front, was too full of Muslims leading to him to crush the ELF and start the Eritrean Liberation People’s Front. Although he has tried to curry favor with Islamic Arab league nations who deal with him based upon practicality without regard to his religious abhorrence in Eritrea there has been a long history of closing mosques and Islamic schools. In 2017 many demonstrations by Eritrean diaspora occurred in protest of Muslim oppression in a country where at least 1/3 of the population follows Islam.

At various times the Eritrean police state has imprisoned or assassinated religious followers. Like China it wants people to be devoted to the state not to God.  In 2019 all Catholic Church charities including hospitals and schools were closed down and patients thrown into street. During my time in the first three months of Eritrean and Ethiopian occupation of Mekelle, the Catholic Church charities office was the target of artillery barrages, ransacked, and all equipment removed by Eritrean army soldiers. Several times I walked to meet with the representatives of the Catholic Bishop of Adigrat who was detained in Adigrat and was searched, my camera photos reviewed and erased, and warned not to return. The Tigray Ethiopian borders has about 40,000 Irob who are a separate ethnic group who are mostly Catholic and have suffered terribly by the Eritrean occupation.

Members of the Pentecostal Church denomination, Mulu Wongel,  to which Abiy Ahmed claims membership have been arrested, detained, tortured and even worse many times in Eritrea since 2002. Although the exact numbers are unknown we know that at least several thousand Christians have been imprisoned without cause or trail in Eritrea for nothing more than practicing their faith.

The relationship between Muslims and Christians in Ethiopia and Eritrea has been historically mixed. Although an Ethiopian King granted refuge to followers of Mohammed’s new religion from Saudi Araba pagans centuries ago and now Ethiopia is recognized as a special place in Islam the relationship has always had flares of unrest. Some of the diaspora that met with Abiy Ahmed during his visit to the United States in 2018 support the concept shared by many Amhara elites that Ethiopia should be a “Christian nation”.  Now many of his closest advisors echo similar dreams. Yet there are Muslim supporters who buy into his promise of Medemer unity.

Whatever claims Abiy Ahmed and Esaias Afwerki make in public there can be no denying that the orders they give their armies and militias are not to respect religion. Massacres at Axum’s St. Mary’s Ethiopian Orthodox Church of over 80 civilians and clergy and the near destruction of the Negash mosque in Tigray followed by ransacking and pillaging by Eritrean troops portray a clear aversion to respect of any religion by either Abiy Ahmed, Esaias Afwerki, and their supporters.

Author: Professor Tony Magana

Professor Tony Magana is Head of the Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences at Mekelle University in Mekelle, Ethiopia. He directs a neurosurgery residency and training program as well as neuroscience research.

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